CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) — Most of Christianity’s future growth is likely to be in the Global South, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where the Christian population is relatively young, according to a new analysis from the U.S.-based Pew Research Center.
And, while at last count more babies were born to Christian mothers than to members of any other religion, reflecting Christianity’s status as the world’s largest religious group, Muslim births will start to outnumber Christian births by 2035.
The share of Christians worldwide who live in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to increase dramatically between 2015 and 2060, from 26 per cent to 42 per cent, due to high fertility in the region. At the same time, lower fertility and religion switching are among factors that will lead to a drop in numbers of Christians living in Europe and North America, according to Pew Research Center demographic estimates released April 5.
The centre said there are important regional differences in birth and death trends for some religious groups. It noted that among Christians, sub-Saharan Africa experienced the biggest natural increase between 2010 and 2015 — with 64 million more births than deaths — followed by smaller Christian increases in Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific and North America.
Not only will there continue to be more Christian births than deaths in sub-Saharan Africa, but births will exceed deaths by larger numbers in upcoming five-year periods, it said.
In recent years, Christians have had a disproportionately large share of the world’s deaths — 37 per cent — largely because of the relatively advanced age of Christian populations in areas such as Europe.
In Europe, Christian deaths already outnumber births, and this trend is likely to continue through 2060. In North America, the number of Christian deaths is projected to exceed the number of births by the year 2050.
In Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region, the number of Christian births will continue to exceed the number of deaths through 2060, but the natural increases as 2060 draws closer will be much smaller than they are now, as these regions experience significant declines in fertility.
These are among the findings of the Pew Research Center’s analysis of demographic data, based on the same database of more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population that it used for its 2015 report “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050.”
In 2015, Christians made up 31 per cent of the world’s 7.3 billion people. Muslims were the second-largest religious group, with 24 per cent of the global population, followed by religious “nones” (16 per cent), Hindus (15 per cent) and Buddhists (7 per cent).
Adherents of folk religions, Jews and members of other religions make up smaller proportions of the world’s people.
Except for Muslims and Christians, all major world religions are projected to make up a smaller percentage of the global population in 2060 than they did in 2015.
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